Galloping Ghost arcade evokes retro gaming nostalgia


Photo courtesy of Aidan Finn

An array of arcade games at Galloping Ghost, an arcade in Brookfield, Illinois. The arcade is the largest in the country.

By Aidan Finn, staff writer

Summer is in full swing, at least, in Illinois with its entrance into Phase 5 coronavirus protocols. With the season comes the late-night adventures of running off to wherever some action can be had. Illinois has more than enough weird yet fascinating attractions for residents to road trip to, but a record-setting hangout flies under many people’s radar, even to fans of retro gaming that it’s tailored to. That would be the Galloping Ghost, a video arcade in Brookfield that holds the record for the world’s largest arcade.

Walking into the building, you’re immediately greeted with old-school arcade cabinets combined with more recent machines, sporting iconic and obscure titles the likes of “Donkey Kong,” “Frogger,” “TMNT Arcade” and “Tapper,” as well as fascinatingly rare games like “NARC” and the “Japanese Left 4 Dead” arcade machine. Even experimental machines like SEGA’s holographic fighter games can be found.

Buzz made the trip to the arcade and had the opportunity to speak with Doc Mack – Brookfield local, retro-enthusiast and owner of the Galloping Ghost – about the famous establishment, as well as why in the middle of Brookfield.

“Aside from the Zoo, there really was not a lot to do in Brookfield,” Mack said. “So this was one of those things to cater towards the video game crowd and do something unique. We opened up August 13, Friday the 13th, 2010, with 110 machines, and we kind of just kept growing from there.”

The Galloping Ghost has even been the destination of various development teams from the retro era. Industry names like Ed Boon of Mortal Kombat fame and gaming enthusiasts like James Rolfe, who featured the location on his show “The Angry Video Game Nerd,” have visited the arcade. Mack described the ‘80s arcade game “NARC” as being the center of attention, with the original development team visiting not only to play but to gift a one-of-a-kind motherboard containing multiple unused levels of the game that now can be found only at the Galloping Ghost. Now that’s a real exclusive. “NARC,” the cult classic anti-drug shooter, is his favorite title.

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    When asked about how one maintains the decades-old machinery, Mack explained the struggle of finding the right parts.

    “The rarity of some of the parts, and the components, make it really difficult,” he said. “If you have a game and it’s like few known to exist, and something breaks on it, coming up with a replacement can be a real pain. Same thing with fixing boards.”

    It’s shocking how expansive and unique the library is. Some rarities like Micheal Jackson’s “Moonwalker” can be found, along with the hilarious and way ahead of its time “Turkey Shoot,” using a still-working light gun and confetti machine (it’s my personal favorite of the bunch).

    Pete Hahn runs the front desk of the establishment and spoke about his enjoyment of working at the arcade.

    “It’s really great working here,” Hahn said. “One of the best things is when someone walks in, and they haven’t seen some of these games in 20, 30 years. The look of being blown away again is one of the best things about working here.”

    Hahn described the culture of retro players, but professional and casual create a great atmosphere. More importantly, Hahn shared his favoritism for the Shinobi games by SEGA found throughout the arcade, a solid pick out of the hundreds to play.

    For gamers of all walks of life, the Galloping Ghost is a great trip back to the good old days without needing a pocket full of quarters. From Mario to 1942, there’s something for everyone to enjoy this summer.

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